Diet Tips for Staying Balanced in the Season of Abundant Yang
The season of “Yang within Yang” is upon us. Yang energy is bright, fiery and hot like the midday sun. Yang is the counter-balance to Yin. Yin is expressed in the cooling, calming energies of life. Together, Yin & Yang, like night & day, represent the dynamic balance between the opposing (but complementary) forces that make up all of existence. These forces are ceaselessly intermingling in a sacred dance of life’s cycles. The cycle of the seasons is a perfect demonstration of this balance in motion, and as we turn the corner into Summer, we reach a pinnacle in the cycle – the Summer Solstice.
Summer is known as the “Great Yang” season because of this peak in the Yang energy: the Sun (which embodies ultimate Yang energy) is closest to the Earth, and the day (also associated with Yang in Traditional Chinese Medicine) is the longest at this time of year. As humans, we are part of nature, so these forces exist in us just as they do in our environment.
With each changing season, Traditional Chinese Medicine offers lifestyle guidance to tune our own energy cycles to the world around us so that we can live in health and harmony. One of the branches of this ancient medicine and health philosophy is dietetics.
Here are a few things to consider when adjusting one’s diet to the energy of Summer:
Seasonal Fruits, Veggies & Herbs:
Time to hit the Farmer’s Markets again! Summer is full of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that help to keep us hydrated and helps to disperse our Qi to match the light, ascending energy of Yang. Nature knows best, so pay attention to what is growing well in your area – it may be exactly what your body needs to be more aligned with the energy of the season.
Heart & Small Intestine Considerations:
The Heart and Small Intestine are the paired Yin and Yang organs associated with Summer and its element of fire. The Heart houses the Mind/Spirit and its job is to govern blood, while the Small Intestine’s job is to sort and process the food received from the Stomach. Blood-enriching foods (think dark, leafy greens and other iron-rich food sources) are important to ensure a safe haven for the Mind/Spirit to rest, as the blood is where the Mind/Spirit resides. Red foods (cherries, strawberries and goji berries) support the fire element, so it’s no coincidence that these foods are rich in antioxidants credited with cardiovascular benefits.
Timing is Everything:
11am-1pm is Heart time according to the 24-hour cycle of energies in our bodies, also known as the “Qi Clock”. Lunch time (the time when the energy is strongest in the Heart meridian) is also a time when our digestive fire is strong, so it’s a perfect time to enjoy a mid-day meal! Since 1pm-3pm is Small Intestine time, this is the time to sort and absorb food, rest, and allow our bodies to process nutrients.
Presentation of Food:
Be mindful of aesthetics when serving yourself or others food in all seasons, but especially summer, as beauty pleases the Heart. Consider garnishing your dishes with a little extra love, like a sprinkle of sesame seeds or a fresh edible flower <3
While a soup may seem more winter-appropriate, sipping a warm soup can actually help the body stay hydrated and also induce a gentle perspiration to keep the body cool. Adding slightly cooling (in nature, not temperature) foods and herbs to the soup helps to balance its warm temperature.
Here’s a simple Summer soup to assist the heart in blood circulation and Qi dispersion while helping to eliminate excess heat:
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup beets
- 1 cup carrots
- 1 cup corn
- 1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil
- ½ oz carthamus flowers (commonly known as safflower, this is an herb for blood circulation in TCM)
Cut the beets and carrots into cubes and stew in the stock for 15 minutes. Cut the corn off the cob and place the carthamus flowers in a cheesecloth. Add the corn, carthamus sachet, and sesame oil. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Serves 2-3.